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Sit Back, Relax, and Strap it Down – ’17-’18 Blackhawks Player Previews – Brent Seabrook

Oh Seabrook, where do we go from here? So many moments, so many Cups, so many overtime goals, and yet here we stand. A dismal defensive showing, a contract as bloated as you are, a problematic defense with you right at the heart of it.

2016-17 Stats

73 GP – 3 G – 36 A – 39 P

50.3 CF% – 55.2 oSZ% – 44.8 dSZ%

21:54 Avg. TOI

A Look Back: Seabrook’s numbers last year were bad, there’s no way around that. Yes, he had 36 assists, yes his CF% cracked 50, but there are other way-more-concerning factors that those numbers can’t obscure. His giveaways to takeaways were 88 to 24. Let me repeat, 88 giveaways to 24 takeaways. That’s basically four times as many fuck-ups as…non-fuck ups? Contributions? Basic activity a defenseman should provide? Whatever you want to call it, this is the reality of all those lost battles for pucks, all those times he was too slow to get to the corners.

It’d be nice if he could score some goals, I suppose. Last season’s career-low of 3 was pretty pathetic (as was the fact that none of those three happened in the last 39 games of the season). But the season prior when he scored 14 wasn’t normal either, and no one in their right mind should expect that again. Besides, we don’t need him to be a scoring machine—I’m pretty sure his job description requires him to focus on preventing goals, not scoring them. And unless he plays serious minutes with Michal Kempný (or fill-in-the-blank younger guy) it’s not going to happen.

Ah, those pairings. That’s pretty critical at this juncture, as the Hawks try to spread out their, uh, core defensemen (read old) and their new crop (read anyone who doesn’t remember the collapse of the Soviet Union; Kempný is 27 after all, so “young” is a relative term here). When Seabrook played with Kempný last year, things were generally functional. The Hawks’ shot differential was over 50%, and their scoring chances and actual goals went up too. Funny thing, when decent defensive pairings are on the ice, it’s easier to score.

When paired with anyone else last season—Keith, Hjarlmarsson, or ::shudder:: Campbell or Oduya—all of those numbers tanked. It was downright laughable at times to see these pairings of old-and-slow plus Nachos-and-slow. But despite what one directly observed, and what numbers coldly confirmed, Q would not let Kempný enter the Circle of Trust and play reliable minutes, some reasons for which were covered here yesterday. It doesn’t take any special coaching brilliance to say, hey, maybe putting a young guy who needs some experience with an experienced guy who needs some speed just might be a good idea. But nope, this is the reality we’re dealing with. While Seabrook played over 20 minutes a night nearly every night, in his 50 games Kempný averaged under 15 minutes on the ice. That imbalance must change if these two are going to make a viable pairing.

A Look Ahead: And what if it does change? It still might be asking too much of Kempný to drag around that kind of weight (literally and figuratively). Other options are questionable too: if paired with Franson, someone’s going to have to be on their weak side, and that’s assuming Franson stays healthy. There are plenty of younglings who could attempt to make this work (Murphy, Forsling, Rutta, Oesterle, or my personal favorite for names on this roster, Snuggerud, which sounds like something from Lord of the Rings fan fiction or a bad as-seen-on-tv product you find at Walgreens), although all of them face the same Sarlacc pit that Kempný got throw into, should they make one minor mistake. I truly believe any pairing with Keith would be short-lived because of all the other young and/or questionable talent on the defense right now; they won’t be able to sacrifice their only top-4 man to clean up Seabrook’s messes. And I will not even speak the name Roszival.

Then there’s the penalty kill—good god the penalty kill. Do you even need to be reminded how bad they were on the PK? I say yes, yes you do: Last year they were 24th in the league with a miserable 77.7% They were on par with the Buffalo fucking Sabres for christ’s sake. The entire PK needs to be revamped based on all the changes this year, and I’m not all that confident that Seabrook should be a part of any new-look PK unit. But you know, or at least I truly fear, that Q will stubbornly keep him there, evidence and basic arithmetic be damned.

And what kind of preview would this be if I didn’t mention that contract? It was foolish to make that deal when he was already over 30, as this fair blog already covered. In fact, this fair blog was cautiously optimistic that the contract would only reach albatross status after three or four years, whereas instead it looks like we made it there in under two. Hopefully they can engineer something when Hossa finally goes on LTIR and add someone with legs, but man, wouldn’t it be sweet to have that 7 million a year back in cap space and give him a nice, comfortable twilight on a shitty team somewhere? That no-movement clause is looking pretty stupid right about now.

The best we can hope for now is that someone (anyone!) somehow figures out a way to do enough damage control for 20 minutes a night to become a consistent pairing with our dear Seabrook. That’s an awfully low bar, but it’s better than letting him drag down Keith while youngsters who can at least skate get barely 15 minutes a night and never see a PK. Just be ready to pull your hair out for the first few weeks of the season until it gets sorted out.

Defensive pairing stats via Blackhawks Breakdown

All other stats from hockey-reference.com

Previous Player Previews

Corey Crawford

Anton Forsberg

Duncan Keith

Connor Murphy

Michal Kempný